Tehachapi renewable energy project challenged by LA County supervisors

A $1.7 billion Southern California Edison renewable energy project under construction in three counties met with a legal challenge today from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

The project is intended to create 250 miles of new and upgraded electrical transmission facilities and substations. The project will transmit electrical power from wind farms in Tehachapi and supply nearly 3 million homes at peak output.

The California Public Utilities Commission approved the second phase of the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project (TRTP) last Thursday.

Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who proposed the legal challenge, said the electrical utility did not respect the rights and interests of residents in implementing the project.

He championed changes to the plans to accommodate what he called residents' "legitimate environmental concerns.''

"It is important to note that I am not seeking to prevent the TRTP project,'' said Antonovich.

Residents said the transmission lines as planned would unnecessarily cut through property boundaries and scenic highways, pose fire danger in high winds and hamper firefighting efforts by limiting the use of water-dropping aircraft.

TRTP runs through portions of Los Angeles, Kern and San Bernardino counties.

The planned construction "will significantly increase the supply of clean, renewable energy for our customers, it will provide much needed jobs in Southern California and improve the reliability of California's power grid,'' a Southern California Edison representative told the board.

The representative suggested a meeting between Edison officials and key county staff members to discuss specific issues raised by residents. He stressed the utility's commitment to continue working to resolve open issues.

An editorial by California Senator Bob Huff of Diamond Bar and Assemblyman Curt Hagman of Chino Hills, published in the Whittier Daily News Nov. 8, charges that the project manager evaluating the project for the PUC now works for Southern California Edison, raising concerns about independence.

The project, which still requires approval by federal land agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service, is scheduled to be operational in 2014.

The board went into closed session to discuss the matter. A final 4-0 vote authorized county counsel to take steps to challenge the project, including objections to the final Environmental Impact Report. Supervisor Don Knabe was absent during the vote.